GNU Solfege Ear Training Computer Program on Linux/Windows/OSX is a Free Option for Music Students

The depth and breadth of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) never ceases to amaze me. In this article, I will provide a brief overview of how I was introduced to the Linux computer operating system, the music software available on Linux, and specifically the GNU Solfege ear training program.

What is Linux?

Linux is a free and open source computer operating system based on an older computer operating system called Unix. Linux was the brainchild of Linus Torvalds (born December 28, 1969) who created Linux while he was a computer science student at the University of Helsinki in 1991. Linus did not have a lot of money as a student, and he wanted to create a free alternative to the proprietary (and expensive) Unix operating system that he was learning about in his studies. He basically wanted to create a free clone of Unix. Once Torvalds created the initial source code for Linux, he shared it publicly for feedback. People liked it so much that they started adding to it, and Linux became a free software/open source collaborative project. Today, Linux powers most of the Internet, and it is part of the backbone of multi-trillions of dollars of annual transactions.

How was I introduced to Linux?

Just like there are different car manufacturers, there are different groups and companies that package slightly different versions of Linux. Just as you can easily drive a Ford Car or a Chevy car, you can operate Ubuntu Linux very similarly to how you would operate Red Hat Linux. I learned Linux on the Red Hat-flavored varieties of Linux (Red Hat is a software company owned by IBM that created their own flavor of Linux during the early 1990s).

I actually started learning Linux using Corel Linux, a short-lived Linux distribution created by the Corel, the company behind the WordPerfect word processor. Corel Linux only lasted about six months, so after it was discontinued in mid-2000, I switched to Red Hat Linux (which was then free to download). In about 2004, Red Hat Linux split into a free version (called Fedora Linux) and an enterprise version (called Red Hat Enterprise Linux). Of course, being a young man without a very robust income at the time, I decided to continue my studies using the Free Fedora Linux.

Music on Linux

Once I started using Linux, I quickly realized that not only is Linux usually free, but it also comes with an incredible amount of Free Software (this "Free" refers not to price, but to the freedom to distribute the software in a non-proprietary manner), including a lot of music programs. How can Linux be free if it comes with so much software?

Linux is built by a combination of unpaid volunteers, and of paid employees of companies. Every person that contributes to the Linux project does so for a different reason. Some people contribute to Linux on the weekends because they simply love to code. Some companies (e.g. Google and Facebook) use Linux, and its associated Free Software in-house, so they pay their employees to work on Linux during the workday.

A few years after I started learning Linux, I started writing music using the Free Software music programs that could be installed on Linux. I thought that I had seen everything, but today, I learned about a new FOSS music training program for Linux: GNU Solfege.

GNU Solfege

GNU Solfege is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Apple's OSX operating system. GNU Solfege is a very powerful ear training program that asks the user to identify different musical intervals. The computer program quickly informs the user whether they correctly or incorrectly identified the interval. Here is GNU Solfege in action:

As you can see, GNU Solfege is a very simple program, and it is very easy to use. It gets out of your way, and lets you do the hard work that you need to do to develop a good ear. If you want the easiest-to-setup version of Linux to tryout GNU Solfege, I recommend that that you download and install Pop!_OS: https://pop.system76.com/

Computer technology moves very fast, so I don't want to link to a YouTube tutorial on how to install Pop!_OS since that video would quickly become out of date. Whenever you read this article, just go to YouTube and search for "howto install Pop!_OS" and "howto install GNU Solfege on Pop!_OS", and a lot of good results should come back. 

Learning More About GNU Solfege

You can learn more about GNU Solfege here:

  1. https://www.gnu.org/software/solfege/solfege.html
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Solfege

Have a great day!

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